Heigh ho, heigh ho, it’s off to work we go……
A Saturday morning in October and four mountain bikers are in their natural environment, Blackamoor’s superb Devil’s Elbow, doing the most unnatural things. Nothing illegal mind, it’s just that where they’d normally be heading downhill, for once they’re reduced to labouring uphill pushing a wheelbarrow, a downright evil way to spend a sunny Saturday.But when Sheffield Wildlife Trust asks riders to turn up and do their bit for one of the best trails in the Peak, it’s difficult to say no. Ride Sheffield see this is a good way of putting something back into the sport we love. The bottom third of the track has a well established reputation for turning into mud soup during the winter and the opportunity to build an all-weather surface is just too good to turn down. Add to that the incredibly enlightened attitude of the wildlife trust and it’s in our interest to put on a good show because they’ve recently shelved a plan to turn another popular track into a two metre wide motorway.
I’m a bit disappointed when I discover there’s only four riders but, hell, it’s summer’s last hurrah so I’m guessing everyone’s out riding and who can blame them. Luckily, our numbers are boosted by a big group of environmetal studies students. All the initial work was carried out by the wildlife trust with some tweaking done on a previous volunteer day. However, some sections are too straight and too fast making conflict between riders and walkers almost inevitable. Our mission is to introduce a bit of shape to the trail to slow riders down, hence the wheelbarrows, the sweating and the swearing. After a few hours work though, things are looking good, boulders installed to encourage riders to follow the contours of the track in a way that will be both challenging, fun and at a reduced speed.
This kind of volunteer day has to be the future for mountain bikers and Ride Sheffield will be doing all they can to encourage more of them. It’s no good us moaning about what environmental groups do to the trails if we’re not prepared to get out there and expend a bit of sweat. So the next time you see a volunteer day advertised, bite the bullet and sign up. It’s a good laugh and very satisfying, particularly when you get to ride the trail you’ve just created. Now we need to see how the trail copes with a Peak District winter. It’d be good to get some feedback when you’ve ridden it because the trail will almost definitely need further tweaking and fettling to iron out teething problems.
Finally, a big thank you to all those who turned up and to Hannah, Annabel and Barry from the Sheffield Wildlife Trust for letting us loose.